Lots of us here subscribe to the get on and ride philosophy of bicycling. In other words, it should be just as simple to ride your bike to the store as it is to hop in a car and turn the key. This time of year, that means lights. Sure, battery powered lights are pretty darned good, but of course, the downside to battery powered lights is, well, batteries. Either you have the expense, both moral and financial, of throwing away the alkaline batteries, or you have to remember to charge the batteries after you've worked a 12 hour day, put three kids to bed, finally got to eat your dinner and just want to sack out, nevermind before you've even had that first cup of joe before you head to work. In my case, it's both an expense and forgetting, since my 18-month-old seems to think that stuff belongs in the trash can, but I digress.
So, what's a committed utility bicyclist supposed to do? Well, there is making your own power. Enter the dynamo hub.
Sure, people may complain that they're heavy, they add rolling resistance (like climbing a 3'/1000' grade), that they make you sterile (well, maybe not that one), but for hop-on-and-ride, forget-about-it, all-weather, it's-already-installed set-up, they can't be beat.
The main downside here is expense. Figure, on average, $150-$250 for a front wheel with a hub (and that's not counting the "vorsprung durch technik" SON hub). Add a good light on top of that, like the Busch & Muller Lumotec IQ Cyo, and you're looking to drop $300-$350 for lights. Ouch. That's a whole lot of batteries.
However, in what may be the steal of the century for those of us with 26" wheeled bicycles, I found out through my local REI that you can buy the front wheel from a Novara Transfer for $50. (REI product number 785-505-0014) Sure, it's the lowest end Shimano dynohub (a 2N30), sure the rim could be better (Alex DC19), but it's $50! Add an IQ Cyo ($113 from Harris Cyclery) and that's about $175 including tax for a dyno hub lighting system for your utility bike. Not too bad! Don't need something like the Cyo? How about a Planet Bike Blaze dyno headlight for about $70. That's $120 for a hop-on-and-ride, just-forget-about-it-for-years lighting system. Now we're talking.
And after daily use of this lighting system for six months, I can tell you that the dynohub set-up on my normal commuter bike, an Xtracycle, is awesome. I leave the light on all the time as I can tell zero difference in rolling resitance and it'a BRIGHT. It certainly can't hurt (and I imagine it helps) people in cars notice me.